“It’s like therapy, but much, much cheaper!”

As promised, here’s the interview with Alexander G Muertos that really should’ve accompanied the session posted below. Drums please…

It was only on walking into a creche that I realised I was in the wrong place all together. Though at the time I’d yet to meet Alexander G Muertos in the flesh, I knew the following to be true: he was a man in his twenties, with a liberal daubing of jailhouse tats and more than likely he would be behind or around a guitar. The middle aged woman who opened the door matched none of these descriptions, so with more than a couple of ‘beg yer pardons’ I made good with my legs and disappeared double pronto. A quick phone call confirmed that I was in the wrong part of West London altogether, and should actually be in Westbourne Grove. Thirty-five minutes later I was.

Shortly after introducing myself I was presented with a steaming brew of a strong brown temperament, the kind you only find in recording studios and building sites. I wolfed it down like the asbestos throated guzzler I am and got on with the business of interviewing Mr Muertos, who although cheerful (a trademark characteristic I l was soon to learn) was reasonably bleary in the eye department

Thanks to a rowdy flatmate, I didn’t get much sleep last night. She piled back with a load of mates at god knows what time, so I’ve spent the morning sleeping on that sofa over there. I’m normally bright as a button, but today’s been a bit of a struggle. As that may be, everyone else in the studio seemed full of beans: the unmistakable whiff of enthusiasm hung heavy in the air like fairground candyfloss and as they listened through playbacks it soon became apparent why.
‘They’re a really great bunch’, said Al of the team he’d been working with for the previous couple of months, ‘completely down to earth, what you see is what you get y’know? I’ve never written with other people or worked this intensely with other people, so I was concerned at first, ‘cus I’m a right miserable bastard!’ The size of the laugh that followed made me suspect otherwise.

I wondered how much of the material had been written especially for the debut album, and how much was comprised from older songs.
‘Well there are a couple of older songs I wrote a few of years ago, but what’s been good is working with these guys, I’ve learnt so much about arrangements- I’ve been able to think about other instruments and other parts and I’ve now got the means to express my ideas properly.

The majority of debuts are, in the most part, a recorded document of whichever songs the artist or band have played to perfection in their live set. I suggest it something of a bold move to write a load of new material
‘You do get emotionally attached to songs, and I had songs that I had written previously, but I’d written them when I wasn’t in a particularly happy place. It’s nice to be able to write about other things, about all the shit that happens to you in your life, its really cathartic y’know?

The bright February day that found me in the studio gushed through the window like an open invitation to a premature Spring. In the weeks before they’d spent their time working on Al’s vocal performances, but plans were afoot to record horns, string sections and the London Community Gospel Choir in the coming month. With so much in the way of instrumentation, how was the live set going to change? After all, here’s a man who’d made his way through life with nothing more than a six string and a strong constitution.
‘It’s going to change it so much, but half the battle is finding a band of folks with the same outlook as me. Until now it’s just been me on my Js with a guitar, and the people who’re used to hearing me play like that are gonna be like ‘What have you done?’ Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to be on your own on a stage with a guitar, but it’s nothing like the atmosphere you get when you play with other people and their ideas feed into whatever it is your playing.’

Producer Paul Herman entered into my sphere of reckoning over a decade ago as one half of Skinny; a crossover act whose concept album ‘The Weekend’ is a greatly overlooked chapter in the largely embarrassing book of Early Nineties dance music. More recently Paul’s worked with Corrine Bailey Ray and Dido, and suggested that working with the Big Bad AGM has given him an opportunity to step away from that highly polished, industry standard sound. Al concurs, citing the recording attitudes of times long since past as a huge influence
‘Everything nowadays is done on overdub, but nothing beats the sound of those records from back in the day: they’re so warm and so emotive. Everyone can relate to the story behind the songs and I think at least half of that has to do with the production, which is so overlooked these days. There are a lot of legitimate artists who are really good at what they do, but they seem to settle for basic production’

He speaks the truth. The majority of, and I use the word cautiously, singer-songwriters in Al’s position will always opt for anodyne production that’s fit for purpose but for fuck all else, so it’s nice to meet someone keen to buck the trend. With all the talk of other people, I wondered if Mr Muertos favoured any of his musical contemporaries?
‘There are people who I respect as musicians, there are loads of them actually’ but you don’t hear a lot of people playing traditional soul based music or blues, and that’s what I’ve grown up on and that’s the music I love. So yeah, it’s hard for me to find new music that I can properly relate to.’ Perhaps that was a motivation for him to start writing and recording music? He quickly dispels the suggestion
‘At the end of the day, I just love singing and playing guitar. It’s a wonderful thing; like therapy but much, much cheaper!’ Again he laughs and it’s a tricky thing not join in.

A month or so later I bumped in to the Man Like Muertos, at a private party for the highly fashionable. How we’d managed to slip through the net is neither here nor there. All you need to know is that the booze was free but the people were all rather inhibited, checking their hair and doing their damnedest to avoid eye contact. When I saw the Lad Himself propped up at the bar with armfuls of colourful cocktails, engaging any old sod in conversation, that’s when fully I realised he was one of the good ones.

6 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. matthew barr

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  2. Lea

    Brilliant feature…

    “reasonably bleary in the eye department” = story of my life…HA!

    Keep on keeping matey!

    ~ L

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